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If you thought you were frustrated with filing your taxes recently this post will probably not help.

According to Marketplace the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which loses an estimated $300 billion due to tax evasion every year, is using data from social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in order to investigate those who don't file taxes or file suspicious returns.

From Marketplace:

We're all just trying to get through this time of year without losing our shirts and—of course—without getting audited. The IRS is kicking into high gear, too. Their goals are a bit different than ours, though. The agency is hoping to catch tax dodgers. It loses an estimated $300 billion a year to tax evasion, and getting that money isn’t getting easier. Because of budget cuts, the IRS will have fewer auditing agents than at any time since the 1980s.

Enter robots. After all, the IRS may not have a whole lot of money or manpower, but it has a gold mine of data on you. A lot of it from... well... you.

"It’s hard to believe that anybody who puts anything on Facebook has any legitimate expectation of privacy," says Edward Zelinsky, a professor of tax law at the Cordozo School of Law.

Those fancy vacation photos you posted on Instagram? The Facebook status update about your new car? The tweets about your wildly successful side business?

All fair game for the IRS.

This sort of social media mining is nothing new to the National Security Agency (NSA).

In September CNN reported on information leaked by NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden, which revealed that the intelligence agency was collecting social media data on American citizens. From CNN:

In addition to phone records and email logs, the National Security Agency uses Facebook and other social media profiles to create maps of social connections -- including those of American citizens.

The revelation was disclosed by the New York Times on Sunday, using documents provided to the newspaper by former government contractor Edward Snowden.

"We assume as Americans that if somebody in the government is looking at your information, it's because they have a reason, because you're suspected of a crime," Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law School, told CNN.

But the documents do not specify how many Americans' social connections have been analyzed, or whether any have been implicated in wrongdoing.

In February 2012 it was reported that the FBI was seeking the ability to scan social media sites for information.

From CBC News:

Hundreds of intelligence analysts already sift overseas Twitter and Facebook posts to track events such as the Arab Spring. But in a formal "request for information’’ from potential contractors, the FBI recently outlined its desire for a digital tool to scan the entire universe of social media — more data than humans could ever crunch.

The Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence also have solicited the private sector for ways to automate the process of identifying emerging threats and upheavals using the billions of posts people around the world share every day.

"Social media has emerged to be the first instance of communication about a crisis, trumping traditional first responders that included police, firefighters, EMT, and journalists,’’ the FBI wrote in its request. "Social media is rivaling 911 services in crisis response and reporting.’’

Yesterday FBI Director James Comey said that the agency can monitor the Internet without compromising privacy in order to tackle computer crime, "The Internet is a dangerous neighborhood. We need to be there to patrol it."

From The Post-Crescent:

FBI Director James Comey was in Milwaukee to visit local law enforcement officers as part of an effort to visit all 56 of the agency’s field offices. He met with reporters afterward, taking questions about FBI efforts to target violent crimes, stem the tide of heroin abuse and combat human trafficking.

He was also asked about cybersecurity issues, including the Target Corp. data breach and recent revealing of the Heartbleed glitch, which has caused major security concerns across the Internet. He was asked how the government balances fighting crime with respecting Americans’ liberty.

Comey said he rejected the idea that liberty and security can’t co-exist. He said security improves liberty by getting rid of people who would do harm, leaving more freedom for citizens who use the Internet for legitimate reasons.

The Internet is “where children play, it’s where our social lives are, it’s where our health care is, it’s where our money is. Everything is there — and so that’s where bad people come to get those things,” he said. “… The Internet is a dangerous neighborhood. We need to be there to patrol it. And by being there in a responsible, lawful, carefully overseen way, we can enhance both security and liberty.”

If the IRS' monitoring of social media doesn't have you angry enough, think about the fact that the agency is reportedly considering taxing free work perks such as gym memberships and food.

From Fox News:

In competitive job markets like Silicon Valley, companies are doing everything they can to entice the best and brightest -- offering freebies that have become the stuff of legend.

Employee perks like free food at lavish cafeterias, laundry and even yoga are not unheard of.

But the taxman could soon crack down.

The IRS reportedly is looking at these perks and seeing if these companies need to start paying up for the free stuff they offer employees.

David Gamage, a tax expert and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, said it would really boil down to who benefits from these perks.

"To what extent is this intended as a perk, a form of compensation, for the benefit of the employee, or to what extent is this just another way the employer gets the employee to work harder and longer and do things for the benefit of the employer?" he said.

If it's the latter, then it's harder for the IRS to tax it.

Reason on the IRS

Ed Krayewski looks at where our tax dollars go.

J.D. Tuccille praises tax scofflaws.

Emily Ekins writes about the Reason-Rupe Poll's finding that 76 percent of Americans think that charities would have spent their tax money as well or better than the government.

More from Reason on the IRS here.

It's the worst holiday in the universe. Even worse than Arbor Day. Today is the deadline for Americans to file their income taxes.

Reason has a selection of tax-related stories to angry up the blood today. Skim through our selection here.

But perhaps you'd like to chuckle ruefully instead over the terrible reality of America's dysfunctional tax systems. Let's start with Reason TV's videos for tax day. First, can the costs of caring for dragons be written off as a business expense if you use them to overthrow kingdoms?

Hey Cersei, remember you can still count Joffrey as a deduction for your 2013 filing. Maybe that will ease the sting a little bit. The Starks, though; they should probably file for an extension.

And here we have Remy slathering on the irony in a "Crappy" parody of Pharell's latest hit. Remember folks, taxes are the price we pay to live in a "civilized society" that has no earthly idea where the money is actually going:

In the category of "Isn't it funny how stupid Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is?" here's an old interview with him explaining how paying taxes is voluntary. Laugh to keep from screaming.

Online tax service E-file has a couple of pages listing weird and stupid taxes throughout history and across the world and unusual deductions and tax breaks people are able to claim. Want to know the circumstances where you can deduct a breast implant or apply depreciation to an ostrich? There you go.

Finally, according to the Tax Foundation, Americans won't actually earn enough money to pay for all the taxes the government demands of us until April 21, a week from today. Wait, that's not funny at all.

near bundy ranchOver the weekend, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced it would stop trying to enforce a court order against Cliven Bundy over grazing fees the agency says Bundy owes them. Cattle from the Bundy family ranch in Nevada, which has been in operation since the 1880s, graze on land claimed by the feds. The BLM confiscated some cattle, but may now reportedly share the revenue from selling that cattle with the Bundy family. Bundy threatened a “range war” over the issue.

Despite the BLM’s announcement, Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told local TV station KRNV that the showdown wasn’t over. “We can't have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it,” said Reid. “So it’s not over.” How involved is Reid with the drama at the Bundy ranch? The Washington Times reports:

Speculation on Mr. Reid’s role in last week’s confrontation at the ranch has been rife, given his prominent position as Nevada’s elder statesman and his ties to BLM director Neil Kornze. 

Mr. Kornze, 35, served for eight years on the Senate leader’s staff before joining the BLM in 2011. He was the Mr. Reid’s pick to head the agency, and his final confirmation was April 8 as the roundup at the Bundy ranch was underway.

In an updated statement Saturday, Mr. Kornze said the cattle gather was halted “because of our grave concern about the safety of employees and members of the public.”

Mr. Reid also has been accused of attempting to shut down the ranch in order to move ahead with two nearby solar energy projects, an accusation denied Monday by the senator’s press aide.

Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman told KLAS-TV in Las Vegas that “there is no truth to the conspiracy theories that are being pushed by right-wing media outlets.”

Orthman’s attack on “right-wing media outlets” and “conspiracy theories” may be a case of the lady protesting too much. Politicians on both sides of the aisle often make money hand over fist because of their connections to the feds and the insider information they have access to.

Bundy argues the land his family uses for cattle grazing actually belongs to the state of Nevada, whose laws permit them to graze on it. The feds and their apologists argue the federal government owns the land, or is holding it in trust “for all of us.” Protesters who arrived to defend the Bundy family have declared victory, and the family hopes recent events may put pressure on a judge to rule in the state’s favor. Bundy says he’s now inspecting his cattle for possible damage by federal agents.

A raid on the ranch may still be being planned, according to the executive director of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association.

The feds control vast swaths of land in the West. Here is a map that shows the proportion of land the feds own in each state:

who's land?

Earlier this month, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) said that many people who come to the U.S. illegally do so as "an act of love." Bush defended his comments a few days later saying, "You know, I’ve been saying this for the last three or four years, I said the exact same thing that I've said regularly."

In an interview that aired yesterday on ABC’s This Week, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said that Bush "might have been more artful, maybe, in the way he presented this, but I don’t want to say, 'Oh he’s terrible for saying this.'"

Paul went on to say, "If it were me, what I would have said is, 'People who seek the American dream are not bad people. … However, we can’t invite the whole world.' When you say they are doing an act of love and you don’t follow it up with 'but we have to control the border' people think 'well because they're doing this for kind reasons that the whole world can come to our country.'"

Watch a video of Paul’s comments below (immigration comments start at 1:57 mark).

Paul on Immigration

Paul mentioned border control in a June 2013 Politico op-ed while explaining why he would be voting "no" on immigration reform. From Politico:

I will be voting no on the Senate’s Gang of Eight immigration bill for one simple reason: because the legislation does not secure the border first.

The American people desperately need immigration reform. Unfortunately, this legislation does not do the job.

Of paramount concern is what to do with the 12 million people currently residing in the United States who are in legal limbo. No one is seriously contemplating they leave, but conservatives believe that normalizing their status should only follow serious efforts to secure the U.S.-Mexican border. And I’m sorry to say that the Gang of Eight’s proposal is just not serious.

In July 2013 Paul said that the Republican Party needs to "welcome" immigrants. From Politico:

The former Bowling Green ophthalmologist said that he could only support a reform measure that implements strict border security before – or at least simultaneous with – giving some legal status to undocumented immigrants.

"Because I am for immigration reform, because I am for finding a place in society for people, doesn’t mean I have to vote for a crummy bill," Paul said. "Really a lot of conservatives who are for immigration reform, like myself, just want Congress to be in charge of deciding whether the border is secure."

Paul has frustrated some Republicans during the immigration debate by consistently arguing in favor of reform at the conceptual level, but shying away from each of the compromise proposals that came up in Senate negotiations.

He took a dismissive tone Thursday toward the final deal that his colleagues in the so-called "Gang of Eight" hammered out, which involved steep increases in funding for a list of border security enhancements. "They just kind of went crazy at the end," Paul said.

Still, Paul’s pro-reform rhetoric is significant at a moment when many congressional Republicans are unsure whether they even want to try and pass a comprehensive overhaul.

Earlier this month Paul said that the Republican Party needs "to get beyond deportation" and that the future of the GOP depends on Republicans connecting with Hispanics. From Fox News Latino:

Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul told fellow Republicans on Tuesday that the future of their party depends on them connecting with Hispanics in a more empathetic way and on getting in front of immigration reform—a message that further signals his flirtation with a 2016 presidential run.

"If we are to change people’s attitudes toward … the Republican Party, we have to show up and we have to have something to say," Paul told a small group of conservatives gathered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. "I hope to be part of that dialogue."

This certainly was not the first time that Paul, since being elected to the Senate in 2010, has attempted to connect with Hispanics and other minorities.

In the last presidential election only 27 percent of Latinos who voted backed Mitt Romney. Graph from the American Enterprise Institute below:

Reason Polling on Immigration

The Reaon-Rupe Poll found last year that 53 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of Democrats believe that immigration hurts the economy:

More from Reason on immigration here

Updated at the bottom with a response from the National Security Agency.

It’s possibly the biggest security vulnerability ever discovered on the Internet. It's known as "Heartbleed," a glitch in the very software used to provide basic encryption at hundreds of thousands of Internet sites allowed hackers to access the data the encryption was supposed to protect. The bug was disclosed earlier this week, and Internet users are encouraged to change all their passwords.

Today, Bloomberg reports that the National Security Agency has known about this glitch for at least two years and used it to gather intelligence, while keeping knowledge of the bug to itself.

What is Heartbleed?

CNet offers a primer and FAQ on what Heartbleed is and how it works, though it can get a little technical. The glitch allows a hacker to use a protocol used to keep communication open between an Internet connection and a server to collect additional data that is supposed to be kept secure through this very encryption process. This means data that users thought was being kept secure, symbolized by the little padlock symbol on their web browsers, was not secure at all.

Probably the best illustration of how the glitch works comes from nerdy online comic xkcd:

 Vox has nothing on xkcd for explaining stuff.

Sites have been scrambling to fix the glitch. You can visit a Heartbleed checker here to see if sites you use are still affected. (For those of you registered to comment on Reason, it says we are now safe, but recommends changing your password if you haven’t done so recently).

The NSA Knew and Said Nothing?

According to Bloomberg today, the NSA has known about the flaw and said nothing, even though it may have contributed to untold amounts of consumer fraud. And if other nations’ intelligence services knew, nations that perhaps want to infiltrate activists and political opponents, there’s no telling what they might have gotten:

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA’s decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts. …

“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”

Update: The NSA, in a tweet, responded to the Bloomberg story that it was unaware of the Heartbleed flaw until it was made public this week.

Here's a longer response from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:

Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before April 2014 are wrong. The Federal government was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL until it was made public in a private sector cybersecurity report. The Federal government relies on OpenSSL to protect the privacy of users of government websites and other online services. This Administration takes seriously its responsibility to help maintain an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet. If the Federal government, including the intelligence community, had discovered this vulnerability prior to last week, it would have been disclosed to the community responsible for OpenSSL.

better days, or notFor months critics of Obamacare's disastrous October rollout insisted President Obama show he was serious about holding his underlings accountable by firing someone for messing up. He didn't. But now, six month later, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has submitted her resignation. She cited Obamacare's roll-out as the reason, displaying what it means to "move at the speed of government."

Although Sebelius' departure removes one prominent target for Obamacare critics, Reason's Peter Suderman notes it's not all, or not just, her fault:

Maybe—probably—Sebelius doesn't deserve all or even the majority of the blame for the administration's health law screw-ups. But regardless of her impact, as the most visible official associated with the law aside from President Obama, she deserved to be shown the door—or at least be given the opportunity to show herself out. 

Suderman notes that Sebelius was merely the face or "front person" for Obamacare, and while she may have been its "worst flack," others are to blame for the Obamacare disaster too. Most of them have escaped accountability. For example one official largely responsible for the administrative effort related to Obamacare was able to quietly leave for a cushy lobbying job in January.

Over at Time magazine, meanwhile, Reason's Nick Gillespie explains how Sebelius' incompetence helped fuel mistrust of government and skepticism about how much power it should wield. Sebelius famously compared her efforts to launch Obamacare to Apple's product launches. Despite the federal government spending more than $667 million on the design and implementation of Obamacare Sebelius claimed she had fewer resources than Apple for the Obamacare launch. Gillespie concludes:

Sebelius's abrupt resignation, then, is the fitting capstone of a cabinet tenure that did nothing to inspire feelings of competency and trust in government in a century that is so far replete with revelations of bipartisan secret surveillance, financial mismanagement of the nation, and failed foreign policy.

We deserved better than Kathleen Sebelius. And we should demand more from our public officials with the same vigor we do when buying, say, Apple products.

Gillespie also flagged the reaction of Ezra Klein, the columnist who is now heading Vox.com, an effort at non-ideological "deep journalism." Here's Klein's explanation of why Sebelius, who said she was resigning because of the botched Obamacare rollout, actually resigned:

Obamacare has won. And that's why Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius can resign…

The evidence has piled up in recent weeks that the strategy worked. Obamacare's first year, despite a truly horrific start, was a success. More than 7 million people look to have signed up for health insurance through the exchanges. Millions more have signed up through Medicaid. And millions beyond that have signed up for insurance through their employers.

Healthcare.gov isn't perfect, but it works. We don't yet know how many young people signed up in March, but it's clear that there are enough of them to keep premiums stable in 2015. It's clear that insurers are going to stick with the program in 2015, and compete hard to sign up next year's wave of young, healthy applicants.

The White House's announcement on who would replace Sebelius, Suderman noted, was also a veiled criticism of the outgoing health secretary:

Even the statement by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on her replacement, current Office of Management and Budget Chief Syliva Burwell, sounds more like a knife in the back than a fond farewell. "The president wants to make sure we have a proven manager and relentless implementer in the job over there, which is why he is going to nominate Sylvia," McDonough said on Thursday.

The clear implication here is that Sebelius was none of those things. And certainly, judging by last October's botched launch of the federal health insurance exchange, it's an easy and obvious judgment to make about her work for the administration.

The Wall Street Journal calls Burwell "one of the most experiences officials in Obama's White House" and reports that she's spent the last several months as budget office chief "trying to slowly repair frayed relations between the White House and congressional Republicans on tax and spending policy."

Worse than NYPD? Is that possible?Sure the FBI has pretty much always ruled its own deadly shootings as justified, but that doesn't mean it's okay for just any law enforcement agency to go blasting away. Today, after a nearly two-year investigation, the Department of Justice has determined that the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Department (APD) has been using deadly force "in an unconstitutional manner." The New York Times notes:

The review was prompted by complaints about the department, whose officers have shot 37 people since January 2010, 23 of them fatally. The most recent killing was of James Boyd, a homeless man with a long history of violent outbursts and mental instability, who was shot by heavily armed police officers last month and whose death led to street protests and cries for reform.

In a written report, the Justice Department said, "Based on our investigation, we have reasonable cause to believe that A.P.D. engages in a pattern or practice of use of excessive force, including deadly force."

"Our investigation included a comprehensive review of APD's operations and the city's oversight systems," the report said. "We have determined that structural and systemic deficiencies — including insufficient oversight, inadequate training, and ineffective policies — contribute to the use of unreasonable force."

The Albuquerque Police Department's Horrifying History

Reason's Ed Krayewski has been following reports of bad behavior from the APD for the past year. He wrote about the Justice Department report today, noting that the police in the New Mexico city have shot more people than the New York police have over the past four years. Some summaries of issues with the department since 2010:

  • Public concern about the behavior of the police boiled over into outrage and protests in March when officer's helmet cam captured police shooting to death a homeless man following a confrontation over the man illegally camping.
  • A judge ruled in 2013 that a police shooting of an Iraq War vet in 2010 was unconstitutional. An officer shot and killed Kenneth Ellis Jr. while he was holding a gun to his own head and negotiating with a crisis-intervention officer.
  • In 2012, Albuquerque's district attorney announced she was going to stop sending police shooting cases to grand juries to determine whether or not they were justified. Critics called the practice a sham—no shooting had ever been ruled unjustified due to the practice.
  • The murder trial of a former police officer in 2013 exposed nearly Jerry Springer Show levels of dysfunction within the department. Levi Chavez was charged with killing his own wife with his service weapon. Prosecutors argued he did so to keep her from exposing a staged theft of his pickup truck to collect the insurance money. The defense claimed it was a suicide. The trial revolved around discussion of sexual affairs from both sides, including those with other police officers (again, on both sides). One of Chavez's several mistresses served as his alibi, claiming they were together when Chavez's wife died. A jury ultimately found Chavez not guilty.

Local television station KOB4 has a video timeline of the Justice Department's investigation here.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), is currently considering whether to hold Lois Lerner, the former director of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in contempt of Congress. Watch the committee's proceedings here

UPDATE (1:00pm ET): The committee has voted to hold Lerner in contempt of Congress. From the AP:

A House Committee has voted to hold a former Internal Revenue Service official in contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions at a pair of hearings.

Yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted along party lines after a rare closed-door meeting to refer Lerner to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for criminal prosecution. In the criminal referral letter, Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) outlines three ways Lerner may have broken the law:

1) By using her position to "improperly influence agency action against only conservative organizations."

2) Impeding an official investigation by giving "misleading statements" when responding to questions from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

3) Risking exposing and possibly actually exposing confidential taxpayer information by using her personal email address to conduct official business.

House Republicans have claimed that Lerner urged for Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit founded by Karl Rove, to be denied tax-exempt status. Lerner’s attorney said that the move was "just another attempt by Republicans to vilify Ms. Lerner for political gain"

Background

In May 2013, the TIGTA released an audit report claiming the following:

Early in Calendar Year 2010, the IRS began using inappropriate criteria to identify organizations applying for tax-exempt status to review for indications of significant political campaign intervention.

The report highlighted the criteria used by the Determination Unit, which examines applications for tax-exempt status at the IRS:

The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names. These applications (hereafter referred to as potential political cases) were forwarded to a team of specialists for review.

The report goes on to say that, by July 2010, Determinations Unit management "had requested its specialists to be on the lookout for Tea Party applications." After the report was published, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform began an investigation.

On May 22, Lerner pleaded the Fifth at a Congressional hearing on the scandal after reading out a statement in which she claimed that she had done nothing wrong. Lerner exercised her Fifth Amendment right again last month at another House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing.

Recent news

Issa recently accused ranking member of the committee Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) of colluding with the IRS. From National Review Online:

The war between Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa and the committee’s ranking member, Elijah Cummings, rages on.

Issa on Wednesday accused the Maryland Democrat of colluding with the Internal Revenue Service in its targeting of the conservative nonprofit group True the Vote, whose founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, said she received multiple letters from Cummings in 2012 and personal visits from the IRS and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Explosives. Engelbrecht’s True the Vote is one of the many conservative groups that claims to have been improperly targeted by the IRS while it scrutinized the applications of tea-party groups.

In a letter signed by his five subcommittee chairmen, Issa raised the possibility that Cummings coordinated with the IRS, “surreptitiously” contacting the agency to request information about True the Vote.

Issa and Cummings clashed last month after Lerner pleaded the Fifth. From CBS news:

At the first part of the hearing last May, Lerner delivered an opening statement declaring she had done nothing wrong, and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right and refused to answer any more questions. Republicans, however, concluded she did and have recalled her to answer questions about why Lerner gave heightened scrutiny to conservative groups with the words "tea party" or "patriot" in their names when reviewing applications for tax-exempt status.

The move did not sit well with Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who demanded a chance to speak as Issa brought the hearing to close after repeated attempts to question Lerner, with no avail.

"Mr. Chairman you cannot run a committee like this. You just cannot do this. We're better than that as a country," Cummings said, his voice rising as Issa stood up to leave and the members' microphones were cut off. "There is absolutely something wrong with that and that is absolutely un-American!

Earlier today Reason's J.D. Tuccille wrote about the Office of Special Counsel's recent press release, which reveals that whole IRS offices are backing President Obama. Some IRS employees may be disciplined after advising taxpayers to vote for Obama:

We already know that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has a long history of wielding its awesome clout against political opponents of sitting presidents, powerful members of Congress, and the tax collectors themselves, but who are IRS employees for? Well, President Obama seems to tickle their fancy. According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which enforces the Hatch Act limiting political activity by federal employees, IRS employees are "alleged to have engaged in partisan political activity on duty and in the federal workplace."

Under federal law, IRS employees, like most federal workers, are considered "less restricted employees" who still must mind their actions lest they be be seen as using the taxpayers' money and resources to influence who gets to rule over those taxpayers. According to the list of no-nos, such federal workers "May not engage in political activity—i.e., activity directed at the success or failure of a political party, candidate for partisan political office, or partisan political group— while the employee is on duty, in any federal room or building, while wearing a uniform or official insignia, or using any federally owned or leased vehicle."

Reason on the IRS

J.D. Tuccille on how to end IRS abuses of free speech and how the agency is well-armed as well as politicized and snoopy. 

A. Barton Hinkle on how new IRS rules will restrict free speech.

Matt Welch on how the IRS can share your bank information with security agencies. 

Eric Boehm on IRS employees not following their own rules

Gene Healy on why the scandals at the NSA and the IRS are equally alarming. 

More from Reason on the IRS here

murrysvilleUp to 20 people were injured in "multiple stabbings" at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh Action News 4 reports:

"There is an actor in custody. Murrysville police are in the process of interviewing him," said Dan Stevens, the county's deputy emergency management coordinator.

The suspect has not been publicly identified yet.

The stabbings happened in numerous classrooms throughout the building before classes had begun for the day, Stevens said.

Not all 20 of the injured people were actually stabbed, Stevens said. Some of the injuries were described as cuts and scrapes.

CNN is also regularly updating here.

Authorities say they've arrested an undientified male sophomore some classmates describe as "shy."

The federal government has been encouraging public schools to be gun-free zones since the early 1990s, when it tied that requirement to federal funding. In Pennsylvania, it's a misdemeanor to bring a knife onto school property; students who do so can end up in alternative education.

Earlier this week, A. Barton Hinkle highlighted the emerging knife rights movement and an eponymous civil rights organization:

Last month Knife Rights won a big (for them) victory when Tennessee repealed a law prohibiting switchblades. Tennessee followed the lead of Alaska, which legalized them in 2013. Knife Rights was behind both efforts.

You wouldn't think the country has much need for a group like Knife Rights. After all, there is no countervailing force trying to ban knives in America: No Knife Control Inc. or Center for the Study of Knife Policy and Research. There have been no Million Mom Marches for knife control, no congressional efforts to ban big blades.

On the other hand, a few years ago nobody would have expected New York to ban the Big Gulp, either. Now look.

fSecretary of State John Kerry testified at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he once chaired, addressing the most recent unrest in Ukraine, which included the storming of government buildings by pro-Russian demonstrators.

Kerry warned that the "chaos," largely happening in eastern Ukraine, has been instigated by "Russian special forces and agents" and that Russia could be trying to manufacture a "pretext for military intervention," as he said it did in Crimea. Pro-Russian forces squeezed Ukrainian authorities out of Crimea and a pro-Russian puppet government pushed through a referendum to join Russia. An improbable 95 percent of Crimean voters allegedly approved annexation by Russia.

The U.S. responded to Russia's annexation by extending sanctions that had been imposed when pro-Russian forces first began to occupy Crimea. Those sanctions targeted specific officials tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin and their companies. The sanctions may have cost Finland a Miley Cyrus concert

Kerry suggested Russia could face yet more U.S. sanctions over the unrest in eastern Ukraine, warning that the country's banking, energy, and mining sectors would be targeted. As Reason's J.D. Tuccille noted, Russia has paid, and is paying, a steep price for its actions in Crimea—its economic performance is deteriorating not because of limited U.S. sanctions but because market actors, by and large, have taken a dim view of the country in the wake of its neo-imperialist moves. "Bureaucratic penalties," Tuccille wrote, "don't function with the speed of scared investors getting their money the hell out."

Kerry has agreed to meet with diplomats from Ukraine, Russia, and the European Union within the next week and a half.